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Seniors shine as Badgers win Big Ten home finale

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McClatchy-Tribune
March 9, 2009
— Given the circumstances, you couldn’t have scripted it any better.

The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team came into Senior Day on Sunday needing a victory to finish fourth in the Big Ten and lock up a first-round bye in the conference tournament. Not only did the Badgers get that “W” with an 85-61 victory over Indiana, each of their four seniors had his chance to star.


Joe Krabbenhoft scored a collegiate-high 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Marcus Landry tied his collegiate high with six assists and had seven points and seven rebounds. Kevin Gullikson came off the bench and played a key role in the game’s decisive run. Even little-used Morris Cain gave the crowd something to cheer about when he nailed his only jumper of the day.


Wisconsin also got 15 points from junior Jason Bohannon, who made 3 of 7 three-pointers, and nine apiece from junior Trevon Hughes and sophomore Jon Leuer. Hughes also had a season-high five steals.


“I thought they handled their minutes well,” coach Bo Ryan said of his seniors. “They were very proud to have a Wisconsin uniform on and wrap up their career at home and be a part of what they’ve accomplished, be a part of what has transpired here over their four years.”


Their play allowed the Badgers (19-11, 10-8 Big Ten) to finish a frustrating regular season on a high note and enter the postseason with seven victories in their last nine games.


They will face Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.


Indiana, meanwhile, dropped to 6-24 and 1-17 and played without junior Devan Dumes, their leading scorer who was out with a knee injury.


Freshmen Verdell Jones III and Nick Williams finished with 23 and 19 points, respectively, for Indiana. The Hoosiers shot 54 percent but were undone by turnovers. They had 16 for the game, which led to 20 UW points. The Badgers scored 15 points off IU’s 12 turnovers in the first half.


Wisconsin, which led by as many as 24 points, never trailed after the first 3 minutes, but the defining moment came during the final 7½ minutes of the first half when UW turned a six-point lead into a 17-point bulge by the break..


It was fitting that a senior led the charge during that stretch, although few would have expected it to be Gullikson, a 6-foot-7 forward.


He had scored no more than four points in a game this season but had seven during the Badgers’ 20-9 run to close the half.


His three-point play with 7 minutes 32 seconds left to play started the run and his baseline jumper with 5 seconds left capped it.


“Everyone was in sync,” Krabbenhoft said. “I thought Kevin came in there and did a real good job in the last few minutes of the first half. That baseline jumper with a couple of seconds to go was huge. It was a big momentum swing.”


In between those points, Wisconsin riddled the Hoosiers’ defense, be it man-to-man or zone. UW, which shot 57.7 percent in the first half and 52 percent in all, scored on nine of 12 possessions during that spurt, using good ball movement to get the ball in the lane.


Wisconsin made just 1 three-pointer during that stretch, when Landry gave UW a 26-16 lead with 6:38 left.


After Landry’s basket, Williams hit a jumper and Jones sank two free throws to cut the Badgers’ lead to 26-20 with 5:16 to play.


The rest of the half belonged to Wisconsin.


Krabbenhoft’s two free throws were the start of a 14-3 run to end the half. Krabbenhoft followed with a jumper, then Hughes converted a steal into a layup to push the Badgers’ lead to 32-20.


Indiana’s Matt Roth responded with a basket in the lane, but in the final 2½ minutes Gullikson was money. After getting the ball near the top of the key, he saw a soft spot in the Hoosiers’ zone and used a couple of dribbles to get to it before hitting nothing but net on a jumper.


And in the closing seconds of the half, Gullikson completed a sequence of very good ball moment by depositing Bohannon’s pass into the bottom of the basket to give Wisconsin a 40-23 lead at the half.


Indiana pulled no closer than 12 points in the second half.


“How many teams absorb six in a row and still come back and make a statement like our guys did?” Ryan said, referring to the team’s six-game losing streak this season. “I think these guys have accomplished a heck of a lot so far. I certainly hope they want to play a lot more.”


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-- (8) Michigan St. 62, (19) Purdue 51—At East Lansing, Mich., Kalin Lucas scored 21 points to help Spartans win their fifth straight game heading into the Big Ten tournament.

The Spartans (25-5, 15-3) already had clinched the outright conference title. They scored nine straight points early in the second half to break open a tight game, and pushed the lead to as many as 14 in the second half.


JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore each scored 12 points for Purdue (22-9, 11-7), which dropped to the third seed in the conference tournament behind Michigan State and Illinois.


-- Northwestern 52, Ohio State 47—At Columbus, Ohio, Evan Turner hit two jumpers down the stretch and Jon Diebler added two clinching free throws to lead Ohio State past Northwestern 52-47 on Sunday.

Ohio State (20-9, 10-8), which nearly blew a 12-point second-half lead, will be the No. 5 seed and Northwestern No. 9 at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.


The win kept coach Thad Matta’s streak of 20-win seasons intact, making him 9-for-9 as a head coach.


Turner had 17 points, Diebler and William Buford 11 apiece and B.J. Mullens 10 for the Buckeyes, who had no seniors to honor at a final home game.


Craig Moore scored 18 points — including a late four-point play — for the Wildcats (17-12, 8-10). Kevin Coble added 13 and Michael Thompson 12.



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